How loopholes in the fine print of credit cards can thwart hopes for rewards points or cash back

Sep 14, 2023, 10:47 PM | Updated: 11:00 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The promise of rewards induces lots of folks to sign up for credit cards, but some of those are not getting all the rewards they may think they are.

Sloan Schrage shops at Walmart enough that when an ad showed up for a Walmart-branded credit card, it caught his attention.

“It had a 5% cash back offer and I was like, well, that’s interesting,” Schrage said.

Credit cards that offer money back on grocery purchases can mean hundreds of dollars back into the pockets of shoppers, according to LendingTree. In data shared with the KSL Investigators, LendingTree found a family that spends around $100 a week on groceries can more than $300 in cash back in a year. However, a dive into the fine print shows that many people don’t earn nearly that much because some purchases aren’t eligible for the rewards you might think.

“That’s something that people may not necessarily expect when it comes to a grocery rewards credit card,” Matt Schulz, LendingTree’s chief credit analyst said.

Did you buy the store brand? Did you pay with a mobile wallet? Did you order online? Are you buying a gift card? These are some of the things that, depending on the issuer and card, can significantly impact your earnings potential, Schulz says.

“The last thing anybody wants to do is get all excited signing up for a rewards card and in the end up not being able to get as much bang for that for that buck as you expected to,” he said.

Take, for example, Schrage’s Walmart credit card. He was enticed by the promise of 5% cash back -but according to the fine print, he only gets 2% when shopping in store. To get 5%, he needs to be shopping on Walmart.com.

“All I remember is the 5%, the big 5% on the envelope,” he said.

Now, something you should know about Schrage: he is a producer here at KSL. He and I work as a team. And he says he is among those who had no idea he wasn’t getting back as much as he could. That is, until we got the news release from LendingTree.

“I’m thinking 5% for everything,” he said. “That it didn’t matter where I bought it, as long as I bought it at Walmart, I’d be good.”

So, the lesson here? Don’t be like Sloan Schrage and thousands of others missing out on credit card rewards without even realizing it. The research shows many cards that offer cash back on groceries have loopholes in the fine print.

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How loopholes in the fine print of credit cards can thwart hopes for rewards points or cash back